Sunday, May 30, 2021
I know what you’re thinking… “Dan, you literally just spent the last five years or so waxing lyrical over IO Interactive’s new Hitman games, but now you’re saying that Blood Money is the better game? That’s bloody bold of you!” Well, yes… it is and I have, and I will continue to praise the newest trilogy as they’re absolutely fantastic games with incredible levels. Sapienza from Hitman (2016)? Wow, what a level. Miami and Sgàil, from the sequel? What brilliant levels they were! Berlin? My, that’s certainly different! We absolutely love it, though. There’s no disputing the quality level of the recent trilogy - they are some fantastic Hitman games, but you know what? Blood Money is still the pinnacle of the franchise, for me.
Hitman: Blood Money, which turned 15-years-old this week, remains bloody brilliant – truly, IO struck gold back in 2006, and continues to tap into what made that game so special. Why else would many of that game's levels have essentially been remade for the recent trilogy, if they didn't represent a high-water mark for the series?
‘Situs Inversus’, from 2016’s Hitman, is clearly a riff on the unrivalled ‘Flatine’ from Blood Money. The suburban affair of Hitman 2’s ‘Another Life’ is obviously an update of Blood Money’s ‘A New Life’. The vineyard-focussed ‘The Farewell’, from Hitman 3, is quite clearly a bigger, fancier version of ‘A Vintage Year’. The absolutely fantastic ‘Death in the Family’ from Hitman 3, also, clearly takes inspiration from the brilliant ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ (and probably a little Beldingford Manor from Contracts, but shush, that doesn’t help me make my point). My point is that Blood Money is the pool from which inspiration runneth over! It’s the focal point, and the game that everyone goes back to.
Let’s be honest here, though, the gameplay in the new Hitman games is clearly far superior to that of its forebears – no shit, there’s ten years of iteration to take into account between games. On top of that, yes, we know that the levels are far bigger and more ambitious in size too, that’s not my point. We all know the newer games are clearly better games, but they’re not necessarily better experiences.
What Hitman: Blood Money nails – which none of the new games have managed to compete with – are those more bitesize, memorable experiences. In Blood Money you had smaller sandboxes to play around in, fewer targets and methods to dispatch them, but the levels themselves were plentiful. The newer games tended to have five or six different maps, and, while they were massive sandboxes with different biomes, there’s something about the more focused maps of Blood Money that really hit home for us.
Every map in Blood Money was an absolute banger, too, and that’s not an exaggeration. As far as tutorials go, ‘Death of a Showman’, in Baltimore, was great. ‘A Vintage Year’, in Chile, was simply fantastic. ‘Curtains Down’, where you switch a prop gun for a real one, as far as iconic hits go in the franchise, that’s up there with the best. ‘Flatline’ is just perfect, from killing your target while dressed as the shrink to squashing that guy with his own weights. ‘A New Life’ is one of the most iconic Hitman maps (which explains why IO remade it). ‘The Murder of Crows’ is a mission that I’m genuinely surprised IO hasn’t tried to replicate – the bustle of Mardi Gras in New Orleans was sublime!
Then we have ‘You Better Watch Out’, with the rival assassin and the glass bottom pool, two moments that I’m not sure the newer Hitman games have ever rivalled. A competing assassin like Agent 17 in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin was also a brilliant addition, especially when they’d unexpectedly ambush 47. Then we have ‘Death on the Mississippi’, which was, again, a really great map. As was ‘Till Death Do Us Part’ - everyone remembers disrupting a wedding with a well-placed bullet during the marriage vows, right? Similarly, everyone remembers infiltrating the casino in ‘A House of Cards’, or attending the crazy rave in the ‘Dance With the Devil’ mission, something that seems to have inspired the Berlin mission in Hitman 3. And to end proceedings, you have a quick trip to the White House in ‘Amendment XXV’, before being raised from the dead in ‘Requiem’, blasting everyone to shit in your white suit while the harmonic melodies of Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ ring out in a tiny idyllic chapel in the middle of nowhere.
Hitman: Blood Money saw IO managing to cram a lot of different experiences under one roof, and as much as I absolutely adore the new ‘World of Assassination’ trilogy, there’s something to be said for smaller, more concentrated Hitman experiences. That way, you can afford to get one wrong and not have it affect the overall experience, although somehow IO hit the bullseye every time in Blood Money. With fewer but much larger maps, like those in the new trilogy, there’s the potential that if the Danish developer didn't nail the setting, the mood, or whatever, that a large chunk of the game could ve a little disappointing. Hitman (2016) had the slightly ‘meh’ ‘Freedom Fighters’ mission. Hitman 2 had the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it ‘Hawke’s Bay’ prologue contract. While Hitman 3 had the ridiculously linear and more Call of Duty-esque ‘Carpathian Mountains’ mission. With fewer maps, making a misstep is a greater risk; with more maps that risk was somewhat mitigated. The fact that IO crammed in so many completely unique experiences, so many of the franchise’s most memorable moments, and still it didn’t deliver a dud, well, that’s testament to why Hitman: Blood Money is still the best Hitman game it’s ever made.
Monday, May 31, 2021 @ 03:46 AM
Monday, May 31, 2021 @ 11:33 AM
Monday, May 31, 2021 @ 02:53 PM